It’s brave of a star who has had an indifferent run at the box office to headline a move about the ability to go back in time and correct previous mistakes. If Tamil actor Suriya had a magical watch that allowed him to reject scripts that have done nothing for his career, including 7aum Arivu and Anjaan, would he use it?
24, produced by and starring Suriya and directed by Vikram Kumar (best-known for the 2009 horror film Yavarum Nalam), is a slick-looking children’s adventure in the mould of Mr India. (The movie has been released outside Tamil Nadu with subtitles at some shows.) The narrative requires massive suspension of disbelief, most of all in the idea that an Indian scientist has created a watch that lets its user travel back in time for 24 hours. Sethuraman (Suriya) is on the verge of sharing his Eureka moment with his wife Priya (Nithya Menen) and infant son Mani when his evil twin, Athreya (Suriya again), walks in through the door. Athreya wants the watch for himself, naturally, but a series of events that is triggered by a meddling eagle ensure that Mani survives along with the amazing device.
Cut to 26 years later. Mani (Suriya for the third and last time) is a watch mechanic who lives with his single mother (Sharanya). The moving finger (and the eagle) ensures that the key that opens the box in which nestles his father’s creation is found. A timepiece that can momentarily freeze the present but also rewrite the immediate past is just what Mani needs to woo Sathya (Samantha Ruth Prabhu). She is described as a brilliant student, but Sathya is only the latest iteration of the dim-witted Tamil movie heroine whose only goal is to be hoodwinked into matrimony. Perhaps Sethuraman also needed to have invented a time-travelling watch that goes back into the past and fixes this obsolete depiction of women.
They are hackneyed and mildly sexist, but the sequences in which Mani deploys the device to impress Samantha have just the right amount of charm. Mani stops time long enough to manipulate his environment so that he can spend more time with Sathya, and he even manages to engineer victory in a crucial cricket match (and click a selfie with Mahendra Sinh Dhoni in the process). But before Mani realises the true potential of the device, Athreya awakens from a long slumber and arrives to finish what he started,
There’s a major flaw in the script that won’t escape adult viewers but might just go over the heads of the young ones whom this film appears to be targetting. Despite its high levels of incredulity, 24 is almost always watchable. Suriya carries off the three roles with his typical charm and sincerity, and he is especially good in the romantic scenes. Vikram Kumar keeps the screenplay ticking and conjures up enough twists and turns to push the overall silliness into the direction of entertainment. At 164 minutes, 24 is hugely overstretched, but its affable hero keeps boredom at bay by piling on the wide grins and winsome looks every time you feel like looking at your wrist.